Classic magic from O'Brien
He has just turned 20 and looks younger still, but Classic winners are already a common currency for Joseph O'Brien and the latest was perhaps the most straightforward of all. "I never had a moment's worry," he said after steering Magician to an easy three-and-a-half length success in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh, a summary of the race that was as succinct as it was accurate.
This was O'Brien's third consecutive success in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and the ninth in all for his father, Aidan, who will hope to win the English Derby for the fourth time at Epsom next weekend.
There was a fluid ease about the way Magician tracked and then overwhelmed the hard-running pacemaker Trading Leather. Magician had taken the Dee Stakes at Chester, a Derby trial over 10 furlongs, on his previous outing, but there seems little chance he will head to Epsom on Saturday after such a short break. He has a long season in Group Ones ahead of him, however, with races like the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown the possible targets.
"He's a very exciting horse," Aidan O'Brien said. "He travelled and quickened and galloped. He was always one of those horses that could have gone either way [in distance]. He showed a lot of speed as a two-year-old, then everyone saw what he did at Chester.
"To win a strong-run mile at The Curragh you have to get a mile and a quarter well. You'd look forward to Ascot with him now. He has a lot of options, but you'd imagine that next week would come too quick for him after doing something like that."
Magician is by Galileo, O'Brien's first Derby winner, and would have been a serious contender for the Derby, but the fact that he could be excused from the Epsom team to win this Classic suggests that the Ballydoyle three-year-olds have strength in depth.
As a result, there might yet be a place for Frankie Dettori aboard one of O'Brien's Derby runners, assuming that he can negotiate a path through the bureaucracy in France and Britain that has so far prevented the Italian's return from a six-month drugs ban.
Dettori is thought to have ridden work at Ballydoyle yesterday morning, a belief which O'Brien seemed to confirm. "I think there was an Italian lad there," O'Brien said, though he could not be drawn on Epsom riding arrangements.
"We haven't decided what's going yet and we probably won't until the middle of the week," he said. "We always cross those bridges when we come to them.
"I suppose we'd say Battle Of Marengo and Mars will definitely run because that was the plan after their last runs to go there. The ones we have to decide on are Flying The Flag, who ran today and so probably won't go, then there's Festive Cheer, Ruler Of The World [the Chester Vase winner] and Nevis.
"The boys [owners] will decide it and we'll go from there. When they give us the plan, we'll act on the instructions."
Was, which took the Oaks for O'Brien last June, could finish only fourth on her seasonal return behind Henry Cecil's Chigun in the Group Three Abu Dhabi Stakes.